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I am NOT Tiger Woods

Let’s be honest: none of us are Tiger Woods and even more of us aren’t even Happy Gilmore. The only thing we can relate to Tiger is a love for golf, and our only relation to Happy is a homemade golf swing.

However, as Tiger wins more major championships, wins more money, and embarrasses more opposing professionals, he attracts more beginners to the game and subjects them to hours of frustration, and more importantly, hours of pain.

While we wish we could crush the golf ball with the relative ease and simplicity the pros do, few of us have the time or money to take regular, or even sporadic golf lessons. Unfortunately, improper golf swings and poor overall technique lead to a worse golf game and possible chronic back pain in many participants. The question we all ask is: “How can I become a better golfer and eliminate back pain at the same time?”

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) offered several simple solutions to lower the handicap in your game -- and to keep your back from becoming a handicap of its own.

Buy new equipment: Sure, your spouse won’t agree with spending your Christmas bonus on a new set of titanium golf clubs that will sit in a corner for weeks, maybe months on end. However, using 5'7" brother Bill’s clubs won’t mesh with your 6'4" frame. Don’t let the clubs determine your swing and posture. Playing with short clubs is asking for back problems.

Take lessons: Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to golf. Even a few lessons can straighten your swing, and at the same time keep your back straight. You should be standing up straight at the end of your swing, not twisted and contorted.

Wear orthotics. According to Dr. Greg Rose, member of the ACA and co-founder of the National Golf Fitness Society, “An orthotic can improve the entire body’s balance and stability, which translates into a smoother swing,” Rose said. While you may look goofier than your buddy with tennis shoes, the orthotic will support your arch, absorb shock, and increase coordination.

Avoid metal spikes. Soft spikes allow for better motion. Besides, metals, while adding stress to your lower back, also tear up the greens.

Warm up before each round. Although you’re just going to stand and hit a stationary ball, you still should stretch and warm up your muscles before each round. Consulting a chiropractor will alert you to your tension areas, and help you loosen up your body.

Pull, don’t carry, your golf bag. If you prefer to ride in a cart, you should alternate it with walking from hole to hole, because continuous bouncing will aggravate your spine. Carrying a bag for an entire round can lead to disk problems, nerve irritation and shrink your spine.

Don’t neglect lefty. It may sound strange, but it is advised that every few holes you take a few practice swings with your other hand to keep your muscles balanced and even out the stress on your back.

Save the celebrating for the 19th hole. Alcohol and cigarettes cause fluid loss, and dehydration causes early fatigue, so with that combination you might be in the clubhouse by the end of the front nine. Not drinking water causes fatigue, which could force you to compensate by adjusting your swing and promote injury risk.

Don’t be Sergio. Mr. Garcia got lucky last year with the shot he saved from between a root and a tree. Don’t press your luck. If you strike a root or rock on mid-swing, you risk injuring your wrist, which is no excuse for a poor game. If you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, take a drop.

-- Andrew Tufts --

© 2000 Health Resources Publishing